Cancer as Evolution
For anyone interested in learning about the complexity of cancer, I’d like to invite you to check out a forum I started a while ago (but only recently made public) called Cancer Complexity.
One of the main themes (but not the only one) in Cancer Complexity is the notion that cancer is an evolutionary process (as in Darwinian evolution), except that instead of populations of individual animals, the population of interest is the set of cells in the body of a single animal. David Basanta devotes his whole blog to exploring this concept, both in his own research as well as in others’.
The National Cancer Institute recently held a summit of physical scientists which concluded that cancer evolution is critical but too often swept under the rug. From their report:
Cancer is an evolutionary process. This has been a conversation that has waxed and waned in the field of cancer biology for a long time. However, data supporting any or all interpretations of what this might mean in cancer are sparse. From today’s discussion, it is obvious that the physical scientists believe this is a critical concept that needs careful examination in terms of its role in transformation to cancer and what follows from these original changes.
Coincidentally, I recently participated in a workshop at the Santa Fe Institute on Integrating Evolutionary Theory into Cancer Biology.
Clearly the “cancer as evolution” meme is on the rise…